Gardd Fotaneg Genedlaethol CymruNational Botanic Garden of WalesNational Botanic Garden of Wales
Garden blogs

Science team out and about


The Science team have been out and about on our travels this past week.

On Saturday Natasha, our Head of Science, gave a talk on our honey bee research to the Welsh Beekeepers’ Association conference in Builth Wells. It covered some of our previous work on DNA barcoding honey, our current honey bee research, and our science intern Zara’s work on looking at the floral composition of honey throughout Europe.

A good group of us headed on up to Builth: Natasha, Lynda, our head beekeeper (and finance clerk!), Zara and myself. We were also joined by Mike Harrap, a visiting researcher from Bristol University, who works on bumblebees and is joining our research group for the next couple of months.

As part of our ongoing honey bee research (and my PhD project), we’re planning on analysing honey from beekeepers across the country and the WBKA’s conference proved the perfect place to start establishing contacts for honey sampling. People were incredibly enthusiastic to put themselves and their hives forward to be involved. My clipboard and I were overwhelmed with the response!

(Of course, never overwhelmed enough to prevent me from mentioning: if you’re interested in contributing honey to our research or getting updates to the project, please contact me at!)

I was also pleased to pick up a copy of Honey in the Kitchen from the bookstall, as I’m sure the rest of the Science department is when I bring in the results. Straight away I can see the recommendation for substituting sugar for honey in yeasted breads resulting in a honeyed brioche. Baking, in my mind, is much like being in the lab… although the end product may be very different.

And I wanted to share a quote from another speaker at the conference, Clive de Bruyn, that I had to scribble down:

“Every beekeeper in towns and villages should have a plaque put up on their street: “Mr and Mrs So and So, for services to pollination.”

On to Wednesday, when Natasha, Mike and I headed in the opposite direction to Builth and travelled to Swansea, for the Cross Pollination event. We were joined by another one of our pollinator researchers; Andrew Lucas who looks at hoverflies.

Organised by Professor Andrea Liggins, Cross Pollination is all about connecting artists with scientists in the area of pollinator research. The first day at Swansea had everyone present their work to the group followed by a speed dating- sorry, speed networking session. (Sidenote, as one of those awful Doctor Who types, walking into the meeting room in Swansea was surreal. Points to the first person to identify the room and the episodes it features in from the pictures above!)

For the second day of the event everyone got to visit the Garden (lucky them, as featured in Doctor Who episode The Waters of Mars), where we started to coalesce themes and develop partnerships for art projects. I’m sure everyone has a perception of the differences between artists and scientists, but it’s the similarities of process that had me fascinated. What’s interesting to investigate for a scientist is also interesting for an artist… although the end product may be very different.